A message
Future Generations

Allen Tough


I have no idea why future generations chose me as their messenger on that sunny Friday morning in Kyoto, as I wandered in the lovely gardens beside the conference center, surrounded by colorful autumn hills.

Maybe they had noticed my deep commitment to future generations in my papers and in my book, Crucial Questions About the Future. Maybe they knew how strongly that commitment was influencing my teaching at the University of Toronto. Maybe they were pleased that I had helped organize the world\'s largest conference on future generations, now about to begin in the magnificent conference center beside me.

Or maybe they simply took pity on me as I sought inspiration in the lovely Kyoto gardens. I was still unsure what I would say later that morning during my speech to the 800 people gathered for the conference.

As I wandered among the ponds and shrubs, I noticed a booklet fluttering down from the sky. When it came close enough, I reached up to grasp it, eager to see what it said. It turned out to be a message from future generations. This was my lucky morning! The first page of the booklet contained a message for me to read aloud at that morning\'s session:

Cordial greetings, from future generations, to everyone who is attending The First Global Future Generations Kyoto Forum. We are the people of the future--your children\'s generation, and many generations even further into the future. Even though we live in a century that is very different from yours, we too are people, vigorously engaged in a wide variety of activities and projects, just as you are. Just like you, we work, play, talk, eat, laugh, hope, cry, sing, learn, worship, think, and wonder. We are very pleased that you care so deeply about the well-being of future generations. That is what we want most from you: your caring for us, your concern for our well-being, your willingness to take our needs as seriously as you take your own needs. From many decades in the future, we send you our gratitude, our admiration, and our love.
The rest of the booklet provided a longer message addressed to all human beings from future generations. That entire message is now available on the World Wide Web: in fact, that is what you are now reading.

The story that I have just told you is largely accurate. I really did read a message from future generations to the 800 people gathered in Kyoto on November 25, 1994. I will leave it to you to decide for yourself whether that message came from the sky or from my imagination. It really does not matter much: the important thing is the message itself. Treat it as a real message, or treat it as the sort of message that future generations would send to us if they could. Either way, the important thing is for us to understand and care about the fundamental needs of all the people who will come after us in the ever-flowing river of human history. Thoughtfully reading this book is one powerful way to get into their shoes and grasp their perspective. Then too, as we look back at our own era through their eyes, we gain a fresh view of our own values, choices, and impact.

When I read the message, I noticed that it does not reveal any secrets about our future. The speakers do not want to harm us or lower our motivation by telling us exactly what is going to happen in the future. Indeed, I cannot find anything in the message that makes it clear exactly when the speakers are alive nor in what year they wrote the message. My conclusion is that the most appropriate way to understand the message is that it comes to us from representatives of future generations. The speakers apparently represent the people who will be born during the next 40 years or so. Presumably some of them will still be alive 120 years from now.


This entire book called A MESSAGE FROM FUTURE GENERATIONS is copyright 1995 Allen Tough. All rights reserved. It may be downloaded for your own personal reading, but may not